By Sylvia Booth Hubbard   |   Monday, 09 Oct 2017 01:09 PM

 Astaxanthin, a form of carotenoid that gives salmon and lobster their red coloring, may be a key to longevity. A study at the University of Hawaii found that astaxanthin can switch on a variation of the FOXO3 gene that protects against aging. While all humans have the gene, one in three people carry a version that is associated with longevity.

In a study, mice were fed either normal food or food containing a low or high dose of an astaxanthin compound called CDX. The animals that received the higher amount of astaxanthin showed an increase in the activation of the FOXO3 longevity gene in their heart tissue by almost 90 percent.

Experts have extolled the healthy virtues of astaxanthin as a super-nutrient for years, and believe it has a powerful ability to neutralize the free radicals that cause aging by damaging cells. Laboratory studies have found that astaxanthin has 6,000 times the ability of vitamin C and 550 times the power of vitamin E to combat oxidative damage.

• Eye health. Astaxanthin helps delay the formation of cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration by protecting the eyes from free-radical damage. “Astaxanthin plays a major role in protecting the retina, and hence vision,” says Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of Dr. Blaylock’s Prescription for Natural Health. One study found that women who ate fish three times a week reduced their risk of age-related cataracts — the leading cause of blindness — by 11 percent when compared to women who only ate fish once a month.

• Dementia. One marker of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is an increase of phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH) in the blood which damage brain cells. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that supplementing the diet  of Alzheimer’s patients with 6 to 12 milligrams of astaxanthin every day for 12 weeks reduced levels of PLOOH by up to 50 percent.

• Arthritis. Astaxanthin even fights the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. In a double-blind, randomized study, when patients were given 4 milligrams of astaxanthin, they reported an 85 percent improvement in their pain and a 60 percent improvement in mobility. Most of the volunteers said the supplement was just as effective as their prescription drugs. Studies found that astaxanthin, just like the prescription drug Celebrex, blocks COX 2 enzymes. Numerous studies show it is effective for all types of joint pain, including carpal tunnel syndrome.

• Colitis and colon cancer. Japanese researchers found that astaxanthin inhibited inflammation in the colon associated with colitis, and also induced apoptosis — cell death — in colon cancer cells. They said their findings indicate that astaxanthin is a candidate to prevent colitis and the inflammation associated with cancer of the colon.

• Heart disease. A report published in Future Cardiology analyzed eight clinical trials and found that astaxanthin fights oxidative stress and inflammation — two main components in the development of heart disease. An additional study, this one published in Nutrition and Metabolism found that astaxanthin reduced levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation that researchers discovered to be at the root of many health problems, including cardiovascular disease. 

Other studies show that astaxanthin aids exercise by increasing endurance and strength, boosts fat loss, improves male fertility, and helps burn wounds heal.